LOS ANGELES • Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett is calling time on his National Basketball Association (NBA) career after 21 seasons, posting a video on Instagram saying "farewell" and "thank you" to fans who have backed him since 1995.
He posted the video on Friday amid reports that he and the team had reached a deal on a buyout of his US$8 million (S$10.9 million) contract for the upcoming season.
The 40-year-old departs as the most productive player in the history of the Timberwolves, where he spent 131/2 of his 21 seasons.
"I'm just thankful. I can't even put that into words," Garnett said in the moody video that shows him alone in Minnesota's Target Centre arena.
"I'm just thankful for everybody and the love. I never would have thought that people love me like this," he added in the video, which ended with the words "Farewell" and "Thank you for the journey" on the screen.
Garnett was drafted out of high school in 1995 and became one of the most accomplished power forwards in league history, helping make the long-suffering Timberwolves into play-off contenders.
Number of seasons Kevin Garnett has played in the National Basketball Association, the joint-most alongside Robert Parish and Kevin Willis.
He was the first player in two decades to go straight from high school to the NBA, and his success paved the way for similar moves by Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Tracy McGrady. In departing, he follows long-tenured veterans Bryant and Tim Duncan out of the NBA.
"Kevin Garnett is one of the fiercest competitors our league has ever seen," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
"He held himself to the highest standard of preparation and performance for a remarkable 21 seasons. On behalf of the NBA family, I thank Kevin for his sustained excellence and the enormous impact he's had on the game."
The 15-time All-Star ranks 17th with 26,071 career points, ninth in career rebounds with 14,662 and 17th in blocked shots with 2,037 and was the league Most Valuable Player in 2004.
Known for his intensity and his meticulous training habits, Garnett is one of five players to log at least 50,000 NBA game minutes. He also earned more than US$330 million in his career, the most by any player in league history,
Traded from the Timberwolves to the Boston Celtics in 2007, Garnett won a championship with the Celtics in 2008 and was named Defensive Player of the Year.
He returned to Minnesota in February 2015 and averaged 3.2 points and 3.9 rebounds in 38 games last season while battling injuries.
"It has been a real joy to watch KG come into the league as a young man and watch him develop his skills to become one of the very best in the NBA," said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.
"I have treasured the opportunity to see him grow as a leader. I wish him continued success in the next chapter of his life."
The news comes with the Timberwolves' first training camp under coach Tom Thibodeau set to begin on Tuesday.
Minnesota's Spanish guard Ricky Rubio was among the players using social media to pay tribute to Garnett. "Hands down one of the best to ever play this game. I learnt what hard work really means. Great team-mate. It was a dream come true to play next to you," he said in an Instagram post.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS